Red Sand & Black Sun

Dark Sun MORE AWESOME Edition! As told by Tom

So when I woke up this morning from yet another creepy-ass dream, I had the pleasure to find myself in the company of a loudly snoring Tanarch (how the hell did I manage to sleep through THAT?) and 2 sets of big, creepy, bug eyes staring at me. Sorrin was also nowhere to be found (which, really, any surprise there?). While I can’t say it was the most pleasant of company to wake up to, I figured if the bugs were gonna kill me, they would have done it when I was asleep. Kacha’ak, for his part, unlocked the damn manacles without so much as a sneer (well, what passes for a Thri-kreen sneer anyway) so I guess he’s either more practical than I’ve given him credit for or more crafty… Guess we’ll find out soon enough either way.

So pretty much as soon as the manacles are off, Kacha’s girl (Clickclick? Dicklick? What was her name again?) comes forward and basically forgives me for the whole thing involving the Judaga from earlier, which throws me for a bit ‘cuz I’m pretty sure no one’s ever thanked me before for setting them up to take a fall. I guess there’s a first time for everything? Oh, and on top of that, she actually ASKED me to do it again if it could help her master/boyfriend/whatever… Huh… Okay! I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. Hey, if the lady asked for it then it’s not like Kacha can get his antennas in a twist about it, can he? Meanwhile, he’s just standing there all stone faced and silent, ever the stoic Thri-kreen hero. Or maybe just thinking about lunch. Hard to tell with kreen. Barely even said a word even when I apologized to him (which I felt was very big of me).

Oh, and Tanarch woke up and Sorrin came in and was all amused by the whole thing, of course acting all innocent about where she’d been all morning (like no one can figure out she’s meeting with her Veiled Alliance friends. Seriously, with her level of subtlety and smug “I know something you don’t know” air of superiority I have no idea how anyone would NOT know she’s up to no good. Girl practically oozes “I’m up to something, teehee”). But she brought this food with her that was pretty much the most amazing thing I had ever had in my entire life, like this bun thing with meat in it? So I didn’t press too much.

Therai was still asleep in his room so Sorrin went and woke him up (cue their awkward flirting). Abraxas wasn’t in his room, so I guess HE’S gonna start sneaking off to do his own super secret stuff. That kinda worries me more than the Sorrin stuff, because while I know she’s off trying to save the world with her magical gang of do-gooder buddies or whatever I have no idea what the hell Abraxas is up to. I hope he’s just going off to drink alone, but somehow I don’t think that a former slaver is just sneaking off to hang out with friends. Gotta try to keep a closer eye on him…

But anyway, Abraxas came back fairly soon after Sorrin, but then right after Abraxas got back we noticed Kacha was missing. He had just headed off by himself, too, so I guess that’s just a thing everyone gets to do now EXCEPT for me, which is just bullshit by the way. I hope Bedjan does catch and torture someone while they’re off on their own, just to prove me right. Well, not really because that would be really inconvenient but still. Idiots.

Anyway, after Abraxas got back we told everyone about our (well, I guess really his, but I helped) plan to sully Mesobran’s reputation so none of the other lords would deal with him. Pretty damn brilliant plan, actually, and for once Sorrin and the others agreed. Other than that, the day was dull. It mostly just comprised of my favorite thing in the entire world: Waiting. Which I suppose beats slaving under the hot sun… or getting your face smashed in or shot with arrows… or being tortured… or having to listen to someone talk about something exceedingly boring… So really, on second thought, waiting is AWESOME. Hooray for waiting! I guess I shouldn’t complain either about the fact that it was so hot that our room felt like an oven. Or that Sorrin was so focused on doodling or whatever, she wasn’t really very good company. Oh, and Kacha’s lady friend is a damned WEIRD thri-kreen, and apparently she really DOES sleep, because that stupid possession thing happened when I was trying to meditate and I know I wasn’t asleep and no one else was asleep so that leaves her. Getting really tired of waking up with a blade to my throat, but I guess I’m supposed to be happy Tanarch is there with his magic sword. If Kacha is mad about me throwing his girl into the path of a templar, he probably wouldn’t be too happy about me cracking open her chest and devouring her still beating heart.

At some point I think Rahmael dropped by? I dunno. Guy’s lonely or something. Needs to find himself a lady dwarf. Or a man dwarf. Whichever. Who’s judging?

Anyway, at some point we got a message that we’d been invited up to the palace for a big feast. The Prince wants to impress a bunch of big-wigs and I guess we’re famous enough to serve as a welcome attraction. Which I suppose is fairly flattering. Abraxas gets all squinty-eyed and paranoid about the invitation, all “how does the Prince know we’re here?!” I really don’t get what the guy chooses to get worked up about. He’ll practically yell “WE’VE HAD CONTACT WITH THE VEILED ALLIANCE!” in a public space without thinking anything of it, but then gets all freaked out because the kreen slave girl loses consciousness every now and then. Or, in this case, that a Prince happens to know that a troupe of gladiators are currently in his city (you know, the gladiators traveling in a big caravan? A caravan that was greeted by a palace official by the gates? A palace official who spoke to each of us in person and gave us all a tour of the city? The gladiators tied to a certain representative from Ledopolis who has been trying to meet with all the main houses in the city? Yeah, Braxi, there is no way he could have heard about us! IT’S A CONSPIRACY!)

Regardless, royal invitations aren’t something one tends to decline, especially if one is still technically a slave. Also, it’s not like we had anything better to do. Later that afternoon Kacha decided he wanted to go take his pet crodlu for a walk (who even does that?!) So here I am, remembering my dream from last night, and so trying to be a nice guy I offer to go with him on his damn walk. Thankfully Abraxas joined us so it wasn’t the most awkward thing in the world, but seriously, worst mistake I ever made. It was still blisteringly hot outside and anyone with any damn sense was indoors or in the shade, even the sand blasted slaves, and here we go walking down the street with his thrice damned crodlu. Can’t imagine how stupid we all looked. Of course I’m the only one of the three of us who sweats so that made things even better. Next time I’ll just let him go off by himself and get killed…

By the time we get back it’s just about time to leave again. I dry off and try to clean up a little since I figure palace and all. Abraxas and Therai have pretty much the most pointless argument ever about whether to show up on time or arrive fashionably late. Sorrin and Kacha’ak just left while they were bickering, so Therai had to hurry to catch up with them, dragging along poor confused Ka’clik (AH! Now I remember! That’s what her name is). Poor gal looked so terrified, I almost felt bad for her. I waited with Abraxas, which ended up being totally the right call because not 10 minutes later that stuffy official from the gate comes running up to us, huffing and a puffing. He completely loses his mind over us being late, screeching and flailing, his face turning all sorts of shades of red. He was pretty much the funniest thing ever. We made it to the castle in our own time, and wonder of wonders, the world somehow doesn’t end. The Prince didn’t even seem slightly insulted.

The Prince was… strange. He talked to us like we were real people, which was also kinda nice. He actually asked our permission to send a group of his own guards and diplomats to join our caravan to Nibenay. Can you imagine that? A prince asking a bunch of slaves their permission? Weird guy. He also mentioned in passing that suddenly Wavir is all ABOUT helping Ledopolis. Hopefully he didn’t notice the inflection in Abraxas’ voice in the way he said “Reeeally?”

So then Prince Long-name tells us about the merchant houses we’re supposed to impress to help him get nice deals with. A family of leatherworkers, a meekolot trainer and an ironsmith, all from Tyr. The ironsmith, an elf lady, seemed pretty keen on buying us. Sorrin put on her usual insulted “I am a free woman” haughty voice which I’m sure impressed everyone (sidenote: it did not impress anyone) and Abraxas politely informed us our master was not interested in selling us at this time.

We had dinner, which was about as amazing as you would expect dinner at a PALACE to be. There was some boring political talk about who should take over Tyr. It is kind of crazy a sorcerer king is actually dead, but there were a lot of names and political talk and… yeah, I couldn’t follow it. Abraxas and Sorrin seemed interested, though.

After the meal the Prince was all business. Seemed he wanted to back us in the tournament and wanted these families to back us, too. I’m sure he gets something big out of the whole arrangement, but I can’t complain because it means I’m getting some new metal daggers. We were all lead of to another room to get measured and so the important people could talk business. Soon after, though, the prince came into this side room followed by men carrying two huge boxes FULL of what had to be the most valuable pile of stuff I had ever seen in my life. I’m fairly certain this stuff could buy you an estate the size of Mal’s in Balic. I did my best to keep my eyes in my head, though more importantly my hands in my pockets. He told us we would each get one of these treasures.

Choosing which of the dozens to pick was damn hard. Therai got this super huge spear that shot lightning out of the end. Pretty badass. Hopefully the klutz doesn’t end up electrocuting himself with it. Kacha’ak got armor, and it reshaped itself to fit him, which is pretty disturbing. Abraxas got a giant belt that makes him look more scary, apparently. And Sorrin got… a shiny silver undershirt.

… Women.

While I will admit I was pretty skeptical of magic at first and still don’t really trust it, the armor I got out of this deal is amazing. I feel faster just wearing it, and I practically think about pulling a weapon and it’s in my hand. I think it’s safe to say the best thing any of us got out of this deal.

Afterwards we had to entertain the guests, which was fine I guess. We danced for our supper and everyone oohed and aahed and clapped their hands like gleeful children. I displayed my stealth and skill, Kacha his jumping and hurling ability, Therai did a flaming spear demonstration, Abraxas showed his pure brute strength and toughness and Sorrin… Danced.

… Women.

By the time the party was over it was well past nightfall. I’ll admit, I was in a pretty good mood. All day I had been a little jumpy because of what the guy in my dream had said, but it was already well into the evening and everything had gone just fine. Abraxas said he needed to make a stop before heading back to bed, so the whole group tagged along. I have to hand it to him, the dray has weird friends. He lead us through the elven market, straight to this hole-in-the-wall elven bar. Not feeling like taking a knife in the back, Kacha’ak and I elected to wait outside, and Therai was nice enough to stay with us (or maybe he was just intimidated by the tough looking patrons). Sorrin, for once the team player, says she’ll go in with Abraxas to watch his back.

I should have known her sudden burst of team spirit wouldn’t last long, tho, because not 5 minutes later I swear we spot her leaving the bar with another man. Not just any man, but, get this, another one of whatever-the-hell she is. Poor Therai, I can actually HEAR his teeth grinding in his skull – guy’s got it bad for her, that’s for sure. Sorrin’s either the cruelest or the most oblivious bitch in the world. Not sure which I’d put my money on, but regardless – there she is on the other side of the street and damned if she isn’t giggling and smiling flirtatiously like a damned horny teenager.

The guy finally stumbled off into the night with Sorrin looking wistfully after him (biting her lower lip and sighing forlornly like some love-struck maiden, no doubt) and around the time Abraxas came out of the bar, too. We started to head back, but Sorrin suddenly seemed to realize that since we were leaving tomorrow she might never have a chance to bang this or any other vaguely similar looking guy ever again, so she decided that she simply HAD to go chase him down and tear his clothes off now or risk her womanhood drying up like a fig in the desert sun. She probably would have, to, if Therai hadn’t suddenly exclaimed that the psychic thing he’d been feeling following us for the past several days “Was back!”

First of all… It was GONE?! He might have mentioned this! And he apparently already KNEW it was in the city, too! And so did Sorrin! I could have stabbed them both right then, but there was no time, because the psychic-feeling-they-already-knew-was-in-the-city was NOW at the boarding house, so keeping with our tradition of running headlong toward things that were trying to kill us, we had to hurry there.

When we got to the house it was dead silent. Sorrin said the whole place was just dripping with magic. We could see bodies from the windows, and when we got close enough we could hear Droken yelling from upstairs. Therai and Abraxas ran in, while Sorrin, Kacha’ak and I climbed up the outside. While climbing I could feel that awful clawing feeling in my brain – what it feels like when I am fighting HIM for control of my own damn mind. I beat it back, which would be great, except it was really intense this time. Mind numbingly intense, and I just get this damn awful feeling in the pit of my gut that he’s really, really close…

As I got up to the window on the floor where our rooms are, I could see those Teifling guards of Bedjan’s standing in the hallway. My stomach feels like there’s a stone in it, and even in the residual heat clinging to the night air leftover from the sweltering blazing sun now long set, I feel a chill as I hear the words:

“Find Ash Elsewhere. Execute him.”

Fuck.

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